Connect with us

Mark Kissling

Graphics Installer Pleads with Printers: Please Be More Careful!

Advice from a veteran installer who has identified a “frustrating trend.”




Poor design Poor design

FOR ALL THE SUFFERING graphics installers out there, this one’s for you!

Todd Tracey, owner of T-Bone Graphics (Pasadena, MD), which focuses mostly on wraps and graphics installations, recently contacted me. “We have noticed a frustrating trend over the past year or so from many of the graphics houses,” Todd wrote. “Many of the contour-cut graphics are cut too deeply.” When vinyl is cut too deeply, pieces of the backing paper tend to stay adhered to the graphic and have to be removed one by one. “This can add a fair amount of time to an installation,” Todd wrote, “especially if you’re talking about tens or hundreds of vehicles.”

As a result, Todd asked me to pass along this advice.

When you cut graphics, he says, there are three key factors: 1. The age/sharpness of the blade; 2. The weight/force/pressure of the blade; and 3. The material(s) being cut. Thinner materials require less force, while thicker materials require more force. The blade should always be as sharp as possible, and you should always have one blade set aside for cutting metallic materials, as they dull a blade more quickly than non-metallic material.

An example of a graphic cut too deeply.

An example of a graphic cut too deeply.

Example of a missing piece.

Example of a missing piece.

Also, Todd continues, be sure to check your blade frequently for any bits of material that may be stuck on or around it. With a correct cut, you should just barely see an indentation on the backing paper. Heavy indentation often means there will be sections that are cut too deeply, and that is where the problems begin. “I recommend doing at least one test cut every time you change material or use a machine that may have been in use by someone else,” he says. “The more you use your machines, the better your feel for them will be, and the longer your blades will last.”

For in-house production, T-Bone Graphics uses a Roland 54-in. eco-solvent printer/plotter and a Graphtec CE5000-60 plotter, as well as a Seal 54-in. laminator.

Shoe prints.

Shoe prints.

Graphics cut too deeply can add anywhere from 5% to 50% more time to an installation, according to Todd. “I’m sure we’re not the only fleet installers to have noticed this trend,” he says. “It is particularly frustrating because our time estimates generally don’t include enough cushion for this type of issue, and it ends up eating into our profits.”

But the problems don’t end there. Others include the following: 1. Receiving only the exact number of graphics needed, never any extras; 2. Poorly packed graphics that get damaged; 3. Letters or pieces that are missing or damaged (sometimes while weeding); 4. Paneled graphics not cut properly (slivers of white showing along edges); 5. Improperly sized graphics — “I was once given 32-in. panels of white perf to cover 37-in. windows,” Todd says; and finally 6. Poorly designed graphics (involving placement issues or covering vehicle parts that don’t allow adhesion). “Admittedly, the last item could be a whole series of articles!” Todd says. Agreed!

Most fleet graphics installers give pricing with the assumption that the graphics will need no prep work, that they will arrive ready to install. However, some companies send large rolls of graphics that have to be cut apart. “The problem with this is that most fleet graphics are installed in a client’s facility, and it is usually not [conducive for prepping] large format graphics,” Todd says. Client facilities are not super clean and lack large work tables where graphics can be cut and sorted.

So, if you’re producing graphics for a third-party installer, be sure to take care when cutting, weeding and packing. Todd and his fellow installers will thank you!



Mark Kissling is Signs of the Times’ Editor-in-Chief. Contact him at



Find it here! ISA Sign Expo 2023

Whether you're looking to grow your business or advance your career, ISA International Sign Expo® 2023 is the only place to find everything you need to be successful in the sign, graphics, print and visual communications industry.

Promoted Headlines




Most Popular